Since I seem to be working on a theme this week - the groups of people you encounter in Taipei - I'm still sort of thinking in the same circles today. I've mentioned the foreign men and women... but what about the locals???
For starters, the Taiwanese are generally a very kind, friendly, and helpful society who -in my experience- happily assist whenever possible. The Taiwanese use Mandarin Chinese language in school, and typically speak Mandarin, Taiwanese, or a combination of the two in their homes. In the present school system, English is taught in schools as a mandatory second language, beginning at a very young age - at some point in elementary school. English curriculum is continued all the way up to high school graduation, and I imagine many people take English in college as well, if they don't decide to go to college in an English speaking country all together (which also seems to be common among the more educated circles). Some people have more conversational experience than others, but I get the impression that most educated locals can at least read quite a bit of English, and follow a conversation, even if they are simply listening. What I've noticed in particular is that I constantly pass locals who just look like they speak English. How does that work? I don't know what it is about a face that says to me "I speak English" - but it seems like some do more than others. Is it the set of their jaw? The way the muscles fall when the face is relaxed? The expressiveness or familiar expressions such as the way they lift their eyebrows? I don't know the answer... and honestly, I don't even know if these faces that I pass do speak English [since I don't quiz each passerby :) ]
But maybe this explains why on countless occasions in Texas I was approached by native Spanish speakers? And always surprised, but at the same time curious - do they know that I love speaking Spanish? Maybe I really do have a sign on my forehead ("I speak Spanish") ;) Food for thought.